Qu had finished his tour through the house without discovering any clues and was getting a little anxious. He drifted back to the den where he met Qian and began to brainstorm suggestions about where to look next. “What about your family?” He didn’t really expect any revelation here but he was grasping at straws now hoping for a break through.
Qian rolled his eyes back in his head at this suggestion. “That’s a useless idea! You already know all about my family and we haven’t gotten anywhere hanging around them.”
Qu moved the coffee cup that had been blocking Qian’s photo and began to stare intently at it. The look on Qian’s face was formidable with the strong piercing gaze of a self assured successful business magnate. “No family portraits?”
“No, our parents died early and my brothers and I went our separate ways after we grew up.”
“Any acquaintances or close friends we can investigate? We are like blind people trying to find something we know nothing about. I’m afraid that anything we discover will be an accident so we must hope for good luck and explore any ideas regardless of how ridiculous they seem.”
While Qian was thinking, the computer started up and the keys began clacking. He looked over to see Qu bent over the keyboard typing furiously. “What are you doing?”
“Hush, in a minute you will know.” Without lifting his head he moved his arm over to prevent Qian from interfering.
Qian slowly drifted over toward the computer and was surprised to see that Qu had managed to compose a questionnaire tailored specifically for him with parenthetic notes.
Yin Mo-Qian Life Event Listing
Happiness: (happiest experience, favorite place)
Anger: (moment of out-of-control rage)
Sorrow: (rock bottom moment of crushing despair)
Fear: (things that cause deep anxiety or apprehension)
Love: (The moment of deepest love)
Hatred: (things or persons you hate intensely)
Desire: (Things you wanted most in life)
Note: Required - List sexual relationships with women (or men if any)
Qian was not amused with the note at the end since it was clear that Qu had added it just to aggravate him. Normally he could chuckle at it since anyone who knew him at all knew he was in no way interested in men sexually. But, at the moment he was not in any mood for bad humor.
“What the hell is this last note about? Required? Are you kidding or what?”
“Hey, I’m trying to help you organize your thoughts and all you do is whine about it? You don’t want it? OK, forget it!” Qu quickly motioned as if he were going to erase the list from the screen.
“Wait, what are you doing? Don’t erase it! I’ll fill it out.”
Qu laughed heartily, pleased with his abilities to prank people. He moved aside and Qian immediately slid into the chair in front of the computer and began to study the form. Although the list looked simple at first glance, the events questions turned out to be too complicated to sort out since all occurred at different times in his life and were meaningful for different reasons that later became irrelevant as his life progressed. He decided to skip them and start with the simpler things like people, places and things. Late into the night the only sound in the house was the sonorous clicking of the keys.
Eventually, Qian had exhausted his ability to recall his past and decided to stop for the time being. The study felt stuffy and closed in and time seemed to warp and fold together blurring his perception of the difference of past and present.
Suddenly, the sound of a key turning in the lock of the front door broke the silence. Both of them raised their heads and turned to glance at each other. Qian was the first to overcome their surprise and speak. “Who the hell could be coming into my house?”
The door opened slowly and someone reached in to turn on the living room lights. In the doorway stood a short stocky woman with a chubby round face which at the moment was pale with fear. Her hands were trembling perceptibly and her legs were unsteady and shaking. She stepped hesitantly into the room as though the black marble was actually thin ice. As she moved slowly forward she began mumbling.
“Mr. Yin, I hope you are resting peacefully. I was sent by Mr. Lin from your company to pick up some important documents that they need, to settle your estate. If you are in the room, please don’t scare me or follow me. I will get the documents and leave immediately.”
After she had finished imploring Qian’s spirit for mercy, she moved quickly to the study. She scanned the desktop briefly but avoided Qian’s portrait not wishing to tempt fate by accidentally calling forth his ghost. She moved behind the desk chair, grasped both ends of the armoire in her arms and shook it back and forth a few times. When nothing happened, she ceased the shaking and paused for a moment trying to figure out what she had failed to do. She glanced around the room until her gaze came to rest on the ceramic relief. Her face lit up signifying recollection of the key to her puzzle but she hesitated a moment before she reluctantly approached the doll’s face and gingerly put her finger in its mouth.
At the barely perceptible sound of a click, she again grasped the armoire and shook it. It rotated on its axis exposing a hidden chamber lined with book shelves and file cabinets for documents. In the past, she recalled seeing the secret room after the doorway had been opened but had never actually opened it herself nor had she ever entered within as it was not included in her cleaning duties. She hurriedly stepped inside.
Qu and Qian were surprised and speechless but for different reasons; Qian because the maid knew about the secret room and how to enter it and Qu because he had no idea that the room existed or that Qian had a hired maid. Qu now realized that must be the reason why everything was so clean and tidy. He also reasoned that she had not come since Qian had died, recalling the dirty laundry in the bathroom. So, why would she come at this time and go straight to a secret room that she should have not known about or how to enter it.
They followed her into the room where the maid rolled back an ornately carved sliding door revealing a series of closely spaced shelves crammed full of filing folders with a safe resting on the floor beneath the lowest shelf. Each folder was marked with a label and a date and judging by the dates, the oldest files were on the bottom. The maid stood staring at the array of documents as if she were looking for something that she could not locate. Finally, with a look of frustration on her face, she took out her cell phone and dialed a number.
While waiting for an answer to her call, she totally forgot about the fear she had earlier about entering the house alone and above all opening the door to the secret chamber and entering into a space that she implicitly understood to be off limits.
Qu was still in shock and wanted urgently to understand what was going on. “Who is this woman, what is she looking for and how did she know about the secret trigger to open up the room? Oh, and who is this Mr. Lin?” Qian did not respond as he was primarily interested in who the maid had called.
The call was answered quickly by a deep familiar male voice. His greeting sounded as if he had been waiting anxiously for news about the results of her assigned errand. “Hey, Mr. Lin, Mrs. Liu (Leo) here. I can’t find what you wanted. Are you sure that Mr. Yin kept the document at home?”
“How can you not find it? Of course the document is there. The CEO would not leave such important documents at the office. And besides, he always worked from his home.”
“All the documents are in brown paper folders. All of them look the same and they are labeled in English. I can’t read them. How do you expect me to find them?”
“Just look at what I wrote on the slip for you and find the matching label.”
“I tried and can’t find it. Why can’t you come over her and find it for yourself? I’ll wait downstairs for you and let you in.”
Lin was silent at this request and in fact was trembling a little at the thought of going into his dead boss’ house looking for documents.
“Hey, hey… Mr. Lin. You still there?”
“Ah … yes. I’m too busy to come over. See first if you can find the number 2 0 0 7.”
“OK… I see it. There are three folders with that number,”
“Take them all. I’ll meet you in 20 minutes downstairs to pick them up. See you later.”
“Wait, don’t hang up. You said you were going to introduce me to a new job. I want to make sure that is still a good offer.”
“Don’t worry. I spoke to Mr. Yang and he said you can start with him but not until next month.”
Satisfied with his answer Liu hung up the phone. But without the distraction of conversation with a living person, the reality of her situation sunk in. She was in a dead man’s house whose ghost was probably lurking around her, holding three file folders that she was about to basically steal, from a secret chamber that she was not supposed to know how to open and should not have entered. The hairs on the back of her neck bristled and goose bumps covered her arms as she shivered with fright. She rushed from the room toward the front door.
Again Qu persisted, completely in a fog about what had transpired. “Who is this woman and who is the man she was talking to? What are they looking for?”
“Mrs. Liu is my house keeper. I employed her several years ago to clean my house and take care of the laundry.”
“No wonder everything is so clean and orderly. I couldn’t imagine you would ever take the time to do it yourself.”
Qian stayed in the secret room staring at the shelves full of folders pondering what had just transpired, muttering to himself. “How did she know about this room and how to gain entrance to it?”
“What about the 2007 files? What do you think is so important about them?”
“I’m not sure but it seems like we have some place to start our search now!”
Qian began drifting toward the door to follow the maid downstairs; this time, with Qu tagging along behind.